Sankai Juku – Kagemi: Beyond the Metaphors of Mirrors

Posted: November 18th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Ambient, Audio-Visual, Events | No Comments »

Japan’s renowned dance troupe Sankai Juku touched stage at UCLA’s Royce Hall last night, using its butoh patterns to mirror the evolutions of history, the tensions of civilization and the timeless call of nature. The main metaphor of Kagemi that conveyed this message was a floating field of giant lotus pads that gently rose and fell. Wrapped in this context, the silent dancers, dressed and painted in white, moved like ghosts that mirrored the natural elements, animal behavior, the power of industry and the mystery of time itself.

The dancers first rested under the lotus pads, which twirled almost imperceptibly. Rising above on wires, the leaves defied gravity as the dancers began to billow underneath like weeds at the bottom of a stream. Soft, pulsating sounds carefully lifted their movements, opening their bodies like blooming flowers.

Opening Kagemi up was the sublime music of Yoichiro Yoshikawa and Takashi Kako. The composition “Manebi – Two Mirrors” fluttered to an endless phrasing of little taiko drums, mapping time through a tunnel of moving points to and from an infinite origin. Skin-drum tones hit multiple points in all four dimensions, using rhythm and harmony together. Like stark constellations they repeated intermittently in a call and response with the mind, accenting the taiko cycling below, approximating groove and arousing the heart to the vast expanses of tribal consciousness.

After a flurry of rhythmic movements, alternating in geometic patterns, more strident sounds followed, supporting the dancers’ increasingly abstract language. Mimicking the facial expressions of surprised and listless apes, three of the troupe switched between calm and manic behavior in repeating sets. Those familiar with Japan’s Three Wise Monkeys that “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” might have caught a humanist reference.


Sankai Juku at Festival Internacional Cervantino in Guanajuato, Mexico. Photo by Carlos de las Piedras.

The music evolving into rougher textures, the dancers’ movements suggested the mindless march of the machine, at once more erratic, more repetitive and more rigid. Unsettling electric guitar accompanied a change of energy and costume, the dancers becoming mirror holograms of reality, donned in long, soot-splotched coats roving round and round like gears in a factory. Read the rest of this entry »

Aphex Twin – "Chosen Lords"

Posted: November 17th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Techno | No Comments »


Chosen Lords on the Rephlex lablel is a collection of techno-maestro Richard D. James’ rare material under the name AFX / Analord, a play on his love for analogue music gear and twisted humor. For all intents and purposes however, this is an Aphex Twin album with one major difference: heavy use of the Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer — a device famous for its drippy, squelching sound that helped birth acid house in the late 1980s.

Starter “Fenix Funk 5 ” takes a page from Aphex Twin’s classic “Windowlicker” single, its tight breakbeats and surprising spasms intesifying its melodic turns. Quieter songs like “Boxing Day” play brilliantly with phrasing, its fitful melodies connecting with floating fragments in poetic counterpoint. And finale “XMD 5a” stuns with its shimmying groove, its frayed harpsichord searing the mind with white-hot moodiness and communing handclaps. It’s James at his most epic.

Every TB-303 acid line on Chosen Lords is exquisite, oscillating back and forth and bouncing up and down, shaking the psyche with liquid electricity. But Lords is not just an exercise in fetishism. Instead it folds the TB-303′s evocative magic into James’ inventive brew, blazing uncharted territory. In the process, James proves once again he’s a mad genius — an analogue lord indeed.

Music Samples:
Boxing Day
XMD 5a